Saturday, February 21, 2009

Email Autoresponders 2.0 in B2B Marketing

Reflecting back on a long week I had the pleasure of meeting a number of new clients and seeing what they have accomplished as part of their online marketing initiatives. I am extremely lucky to see some of the most cutting edge marketing tactics being used and wanted to highlight some of them here.

I was inspired this morning after my 11 cups of coffee by a former customer and now colleague, Heather Foeh and her blog post "Friday Quick Tip: Re-Visit Your Autoresponders". By autoresponder email, I mean the confirmation email that a registrant immediately receives when they fill out a form on a website. Heather has some good tips to ensure that your information and call to action(s) is up to date. At times, marketers set these up and then forget about them. In this post, I want to highlight some of the interesting trends I'm seeing in marketing automation - specifically the autoresponder email and how you can take advantage of this often neglected marketing gem.

The Evolution of the Autoresponder Email

Let's start with the evolution of the autoresponder. Although this post is mostly from a B2B perspective, the items described here can also be applied in the B2C world. In the past, email recipients were used to receiving a text based email that had a simple message that thanked the subscriber for submitting their information. This in itself was a big step forward as many marketers either didn't have the capability to implement this due to their technology provider or the insight to add this tactic. Now, there are many different types of autoresponder emails from product/service confirmations to event detail information. In this post, I want to concentrate on the use case in which a user either signs up for a newsletter or to access resources from your website. Here is a quick timeline to trace how far marketers have come by displaying how past autoresponders appeared:

1. The Traditional Email Autoresponder

Thanks for registering.

2. Email Autoresponder 1.0

[Insert company logo here]
Thanks for registering.

Click here to unsubscribe.
CompanyX address

3. Email Autoresponder 1.5

[Insert company logo here]

Dear FirstName,
Thanks for registering to receive [insert name of resource] from CompanyX. Please be sure to return to


Manage your profile or click here to unsubscribe.
CompanyX address

Autoresponder Email The Next Generation

Looking at the examples above, there really isn't anything wrong with the autoresponder 1.5. It provides relevant information, it's simple and to the point. I would also include a few other items as part of autoresponder 1.5: relevant static links to key areas of your website as well as asking recipients to whitelist your email address. This is all great but, if you're looking at ways to get more out of your autoresponders then keep reading.

I've found that autorepsonders can have open rates that can achieve greater that 80% open rates and clickthrough rates in the 20-30% range which blow industry averages out of the ball park. Registrants who fill out forms almost expect to get these emails as they have already taken the time to provide you with some type of information. The least you can do is provide them something useful in return. Other goals to keep in mind is to encourage the new subscriber to open and read future emails but encourage as well as interacting with you in other channels that they may not have known about.
  1. Personalization: Adding "Dear FirstName" in your email is good but you're wasting an opportunity to build a relationship between the new registrant and a real person at your company. You know the saying "people buy from people" - well it's true. A recent Aberdeen report has demonstrated that email personalization drives higher email open and conversion rates. Knowing that registrants will most likely open the autoresponder reduces the risk of having a real person in the "from line". What this does is begin or continue the relationship between the prospect and sales rep. As an added tip, make sure you add the name of your company in the first few characters of the subject line so the email recipients realizes that the the name of the person in the "from line" is from your company.

    Once the person opens the email, have a signature that includes a real person's name and contact information. The autoresponder should encourage the email recipient to contact the sales rep if they have any questions. The best in class marketers have their CRM synced up to their marketing automation platform which means that known contacts from their CRM should already have an associated sales rep. Your marketing automation platform should also allow you to dynamically include the sales reps information as part of the autoresponder. As an added tip, include a picture of the sales rep. If the registrant is new to your system, have a generic signature that perhaps is from your CMO or a known figure within your organization. Your marketing automation platform can also help you build signature rules based on other contact information such as geography which allows for a personalized approach even if a web visitor has yet to be assigned to a sales rep.

    This type of personalization leads to a much stronger and smoother hand-0ff process between the marketing and sales teams which I described in my last post "Lead Management and Football". Using this technique demonstrates that marketing is at the top of their game.

  2. Dynamic Content: This is one of the key areas that makes me smile when I'm reviewing how our customers are getting the most out of our product. Dynamic content in an email allows you to:
    • Simplify the autoresponder email creation. Instead of having 20 different versions of the same email, have one email that you can easily maintain. Using dynamic content you can change key areas such as what was exactly downloaded as well as customizing a call to action either based on what they downloaded and/or the interests that were specified in the registration process.

      In one example, I have a client that promoted different case studies based on the industry that was specified in the sign up process. In another example, a client specified exactly what was downloaded by capturing this in the registration process and then dynamically displaying this on the email. These techniques are simple, effective and led to increased response.

    • Pull in content from RSS feeds: I've outlined this concept in an earlier post Latest Trends in Email Marketing: RSS and Calendar Reminders. You can promote corporate blog posts, upcoming events, press releases and the newest white papers/case studies in an RSS feed(s) that you can add to your email either underneath the main "Thanks for registering text" or as a side column. This means that not only are you saying "Read our latest blog posts" but you're actually including the title of your latest posts as well as a link to read the entire article. In this way you have new content that is dynamically added to your autoresponder without the marketer having to make any manual updates. This is a great way to get more out of your content and drive new registrants back to your website.

    • Personalize who the email is coming from. I described this above but want to point out that this is a form of dynamic content

  3. Promote Other Channels: More and more marketers are using social media to keep prospects engaged while they are in the sales and marketing funnel. In addition, more and more of prospects are using social media to learn about your products and services as well as comparing you to your competitors. As I outlined in 10 Tips for Using Twitter And Email Marketing for B2B you can add your company's Twitter address, Linkedin groups and links to RSS feeds such as your corporate blog to your autoresponder emails.

    You should consider other channels as well. For example, Breaking Point Systems offers a free poster which has proven to be a very successful campaign. I also find this approach brilliant as the autoresponder email drives recipients back to the website to fill out additional information to receive the poster. Another idea is to include a link to a video that may be a customer testimonial that is relevant to the recipients challenge or job role.

  4. Sales Should not Follow up the Email With a Call: So you're reading this post and hopefully enjoying it and then you read this and you're like "What? Chad - you should have stopped after the second cup of coffee". Just because a web visitor signed up for a white paper or a newsletter on your website and you have pasted a nice picture of the rep on your autoresponder doesn't give anyone the right to call them up. If you have a properly defined lead management process, leads should only be passed on to sales for follow up if the prospect has attained a high enough lead score. In this way, you're focusing your sales team on the prospects that are more inclined to buy and sparing a potential buyer from being called too early in the purchase process.

  5. Don't Stop After The Autoresponder: You may be saying: "Wait a minute - so, sales shouldn't follow up but I shouldn't stop after the autoresponder?". That's correct. As I mentioned above, you want to ensure that new subscribers are "sales worthy" according to the agreed upon definitions that you should have between sales and marketing. A great way to keep a new subscriber informed about your company is to move them into a nurturing program typically called a "welcome program" for new subscribers. This may involve a few different channels including having someone follow up with them by phone to further qualify the "inquiry" but the first few touches should be via email to demonstrate the value of having provided you with their email in the first place and to build a profile which translates into a lead score for marketers that have implemented a lead scoring system.

    What is important is to provide content that is relevant. Relevancy depends on the recipient's interests that they provided, what they have downloaded and/or which pages, offers or emails they responded to. Frequency is also very important. Try to prevent recipients from receiving email content that they have already received. You also want to ensure that recipients are not receiving too many emails in too short a period of time. However, I believe that relevancy trumps frequency and if the content is relevant, recipients will want to receive it and if they don't feel like looking at it right away, they'll still want to get information from you in the future.
Measure the Results

Measuring the results is very key in this process. If you've read the above you may either be excited or overwhelmed. I would recommend benchmarking your current key email and conversion metrics and then slowly adding some of the techniques above and seeing the results. For example, by adding in personalization, are your sales reps receiving inbound calls as a result of this email? Of course, you will need a process in place to measure this (perhaps a dedicated line) but I would recommend starting simple and building on your successes. While these recommendations will require an investment of time up front, it will pay off in the long run.

Have you tried any of these techniques? How has it worked for you?

Chad H.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lead Management and Football

In one of my meetings these past few weeks I was thinking of an analogy where I could break down the lead management process into much simpler terms so everyone could understand their roles - this is where football comes in. Why football? Well, if I compared it to hockey no one outside of Canada would care. I'm going to introduce the players and coaches below and then summarize how the different parts fit together to create a Super Bowl caliber lead management process. Are you ready for some football?

The Players and Coaches Take the Field

  • Quarterback: The marketing team is the QB. If you're a marketer, you're saying "I don't get paid like a quarterback". No one does - let's assume that salaries don't apply here. If you're in sales you may also disagree as QBs typically get more of the glory but hear me out and you can have your own say if you don't agree. The lead management process should start with the marketing team just as a football play begins with the quarterback getting the snap. It's marketing's job to fill the funnel with leads as it is the QBs job to move the ball down the field and pass the ball off to other players on the team.

  • Running back: The players running with the ball on the ground are the inside sales/demand generation team (different companies give this group different names). Inside sales gets to do a lot of the grunt work to qualify leads and set meetings but they typically don't close the deals. In football terms, these guys can make the difference in the game but typically only pick up short yardage.

  • Receivers: The receivers are the sales team. Who else are the biggest prima donnas on earth and are proud of it? Here are a few football players that come to mind: TO, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress. While receivers talk the talk, they also walk the walk. They are expected to make the impossible catches, score the winning touchdowns and throw the odd block to help their team move down the field and score. The good receivers are sought after by every team.

  • Place kicker: The place kicker represents members from the sales and marketing operations team that typically don't get the recognition that the other players get but are key in scoring points. This may include CRM and marketing automation administrators, analyst that pull together the key sales and marketing metrics and key personnel who prepare sales collateral While there are some place kickers that stand out, it's typically the ones that screw up that everyone remembers (Steve Christie "wide right" ring a bell?). These people need to be on their game to ensure all systems are running as they should.

  • Defence: While I could break down every defensive position, I like my rest and honestly, I couldn't tell you every position and you wouldn't care (except you there who plays the right outside linebacker position on the weakside). In the lead management process, the defence represents anything that is preventing the offence from scoring touchdowns. Think of the defense as anyone or anything that is hampering the lead management process. The defense could be a marketing automation system that is not fully synced with a CRM, it could be your competition providing higher quality products or it could be a breakdown in the hand off process between sales and marketing - there are many more possibilities.

  • Coaches: The coaches are the executives in the organization: CMO, CEO, VP of Sales etc... They are the ones that watching the hours and hours of film to review past performances and they are the ones that are guiding their players to prevent interceptions by the defence and to ensure that the other teams in the league (your competition) get their buts handed to them.

  • Fans: The fans of course are your paying customers. Typically, if you have a really good offence and coaches, you're going to have a good team that scores a lot of touch downs. More touchdowns usually means more wins which leads to more fans and the cycle hopefully continues until you need to build a new stadium with more private boxes.

Putting the Pieces Together: Touchdown!

As we know you have star quarterbacks like Joe Montana and Brett Favre who have great vision and deliver quality passes and you have quarterbacks like Rob Johnson and Ryan Leaf who could throw the ball with decent accuracy but never lead their teams to major victories. In the lead management process, you need marketers that not only deliver leads to the inside sales and sales team but deliver leads that are of the highest quality as defined by both marketing and sales. If a QB throws a pass that is a perfect spiral 10 yards down the field, they may define that as a quality pass. However, if the receiver who the pass is thrown to is on the other side of the field then this pass will be incomplete and may lead to an interception by the defence and a loss of downs. The marketing and sales team need to be on the same page and be reading out of the same playbook so that everyone knows if a newly assigned lead is considered of high quality and should be prioritized. This is where strong coaching is needed in football to ensure everyone's head is in the game. When it comes to marketing and sales, the executives from both departments need to be involved to ensure that both sides are in full cooperation (Here is a great video from SFDC Dreamforce 08 on this topic).

Some marketers will use an inside sales or demand generation team to further qualify leads and ensure that when these leads are passed on to the field sales that they are real opportunities. To compare this to football. the quarterback physically hands the ball off to a running back and can be assured that there isn't going to be an interception and will usually get positive yardage.

How can marketers improve their skills to improve the lead management process? Just like in football where you need to constantly practice and upgrade your skills to be a top notch QB, marketers need to take advantage of the best technology out there to make the lead management process as smooth as possible. This will involve the sales and marketing operations teams that may assist in configuring and maintaining the CRM and marketing automation platforms as well as using techniques such as automated lead scoring and routing to make the process run more efficiently. Again, the executives will be key here to decide which "players" should be used and the strategy that should be employed.

Post Game Review

You may hear this conversation on a local radio show following a football game (any Lions fans?): "Hi, I'm a long time listener, first time caller. I called in to say that the our team played like @%&^ today. That's all I have to say. Thank you."

When a game is over and players and coaches have finished doing their post game interviews, coaches watch the game film and do a full review on every play of the last game to learn about what worked, what didn't and can be improved upon to play even better in the next game. The sales and marketing process must have this same type of process where dashboard reports have been set up to monitor key metrics that have been defined by sales and marketing to measure success. Not only should these dashboards be setup, they should be consistently monitored and reviewed to make changes in the process where necessary.

Fumble! A Leaky Funnel

You just made a great catch and you're running towards the end zone. The problem is that you have three defenders ready to take your head off. If you run out of bounds, you give your QB another chance to score a touchdown - what do you do? Do you risk possible brain damage or do you give it back to the quarterback for another shot? In the lead management process, you need to define a process where leads get handed back to marketing in situations where prospects just aren't ready to buy. If we go back to our story, you can compare a possible touchdown to a closed deal. There is no way that the deal will be closed at this time. The sales team needs a way to label a lead to be sent back to the marketing team for further nurturing until the prospect is ready to engage again with the sales team. Don't allow for fumbles where leads fall through the cracks.

Notice how I didn't mention a punter? That's because leads should never be punted anywhere. A punt is unpredictable and can bounce all over the place. The lead management process needs to be much more specific. I didn't even get into the nitty gritty of the lead management process in terms of creating opportunities etc... Perhaps I'll cover that another time. The important item to keep in mind is that you need a process that is clearly defined and agreed upon by everyone. If the team is not in sync, there will be a breakdown which will lead to a possible quarterback sack and in this economy, making the right decisions is even more important. Let's keep everyone on the field, playing the game as it should be played and winning as much as possible.

What do you think? Did I miss any players? Did I misrepresent anyone?

Chad H.

PS: Let's talk about cheerleaders - we can't forget the cheerleaders. Cheerleaders could be part of your marketing team that is building demand for your products or services or your top customers who are your biggest promoters. I'll let you decide.
PPS: Some other posts on this topic:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Why I Use Twitter

While I'm not turning this blog into a Twitterfest, I've had a few people ask me recently why I use Twitter and how do I use it effectively without it taking over my life. Instead of answering people one by one I thought I would write a quick post on it (it better be a quick post!). I hope that you find this useful. And hey, this blog is called "Anything Goes Marketing" so I'm just keeping it real on here and keeping you in the loop on the latest marketing trends. I do have some other posts that I'm working on that get more into tips and tricks so stay tuned.

I'll start off with why I use Twitter and write a follow up post on my strategies for managing it.

Why do I Twit?
  • It seemed cool and cutting edge. One of the best practice consultants at my company, Jennifer Horton, introduced me to Twitter as the next big thing in social media. I thought at first she was crazy but after jumping into it and being able to converse with social media experts, bloggers, customers, competitors, colleagues and friends in a friendly and cooperative format that would otherwise be impossible, I was hooked. I guess being already exposed to the social media world made twittering a logical step. Twitter is quite similar to blogging but you are limited to how much you can write (140 characters) and there is much more of a chit chat going on.

  • I'm in the loop. Ever feel like people are talking about you behind your back? Well you can do what Michael Scott on The Office did and get everyone to tell you how they feel about you or you can listen in on Twitter. Twitter allows me to better understand the landscape that I work in. I hear what challenges customers and fellow colleagues are experiencing as well as the latest trends in marketing. I feel like I can get into the head of some of the most forward thinking thought leaders as well as students that are struggling to understand difficult concepts. I hear about news before it becomes news and when it does become news I hear it from the direct sources. Now that's what I call being in the loop.

  • I can respond. With my central role in driving customer success, I'm always looking for ways to make customers better. With Twitter, I can learn how to create better experiences for customers by arming myself with knowledge. I see Twitter as a huge knowledge share where people continuously pass around information. I specifically look for those people that can help me and I will promote those Twitters that provide me with valuable insights. The fact that I can easily thank someone for helping me is amazing.

    Not only do I listen to my fellow tweeters, I also look for people that may need assistance in my field and try to contribute to the Twitter information library. Again, it's my nature to help people and I try and do this as much as possible. This may mean answering a question, providing tips and tricks I find or responding to a customer concern. I like that I can correspond via Twitter and I can typically do it when I want it and how I want it (via Twitter or direct message). The fact that Twitter encourages you to respond and that communication is restricted to 140 characters and is informal makes it so appealing.

    In addition, one of the most important responses I give to people in Twitter is a "follow" which means I've chosen to receive to listen to their Tweets. If you get an "unfollow" from me (which is extremely rare), it means you've said something that's really offended me.
  • People respond to me. I think one of the most satisfying reasons for driving my Twitter usage is to generate new followers that listen to my tweets as well as to have people reply to my tweets, directly message me via Twitter or retweet (forward) my tweets. Everyday I meet new and exciting people as well as learn view points that I would not be exposed to otherwise. Heck, I even announced that my wife is pregnant on Twitter and had people I barely know congratulate me. The interaction that is achieved on Twitter is the engine the drives it.
I hope that you have found this useful. I encourage you to try out Twitter by registering an account. When you do, follow me at @chadhorenfeldt and I'll be sure to follow you and help you get up and running!

Chad H.

PS - stay tuned next time for a post on how I manage my use of Twitter.



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